World title 'pivotal' for Black Sox
Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase has his sights firmly fixed on regaining the World Championship crown at home in March, their two-day visit to Nelson giving them an almost perfect start.
The Black Sox were one error away from a perfect game in beating an Upper South Island selection 8-0 at Saxton Ballpark last night. A fumble at third base in the fourth inning allowed Nelson's Nathan Delany to get on base, the only USI player to do so.
As it was the Black Sox pitched a no-hitter, with Marlborough native Nik Hayes striking out the first nine batters in a row. Hayes finished up striking out 10 of 13 batters.
Relieving Hayes on the mound was another Marlborough man. Kurt Schollum kept the home plate humming, coming on in the fifth to strike out four of six batters.
Schollum, like Hayes, plies his trade in Wellington these days, but turning out for the USI team on Wednesday saw him achieve what many would consider a dream scenario. With the national team's main pitcher delayed, Schollum was asked to put on the Black Sox uniform, his performance earning him a second stint on the mound.
Backing up from a polished performance on Wednesday, the USI team made too many errors to stick with the Sox last night. Seven of the Black Sox eight runs were unearned, coming off the back of USI errors.
Marty Grant, the USI co-coach and former world-beating Black Sox pitcher, said the national side delivered what they promised last night. "They are playing the type of game they said they would, moving the ball and putting pressure on the other team," said Grant.
"They will only get better as the tour goes on and after playing them, we have taken some of that into our playbook and we will start using those tactics."
Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase said the game has changed over time. He said New Zealand still has strength in certain areas, but are developing into a well-balanced team.
"I certainly think the game has changed. Traditionally we have been a very strong batting side . . . essentially now it is about adding more strings to your bow.
"The makeup of the athlete is very different . . . As the training and the sport science catches up with our athletes, they certainly have become very quick and a lot stronger."
Kohlhase said the internal tour, which moves to Wellington today, would galvanise the national softball community behind their team's goal.
"Getting back to being the best in the world, being the world champions, is pivotal for us," said Kohlhase.
"We are a proud team with a proud history and proud tradition. So playing at home in front of family and friends, and winning, there really would be nothing better."
Prior to a second place finish behind Australia at the 2009 world championships in Canada, the Black Sox had won three world titles on the trot. At Rosedale Park on the North Shore in early March, they have an opportunity to set the record straight.
- The Nelson Mail